Fresh & Local
Good Friends, Good Food, Good Wine
Column #3, Published Oct 7, 2011
There is currently a food revolution going on, and locally grown food is making permanent inroads. In a previous column, I touched on some of the reasons for this which included a changing American attitude toward food itself.
My wife's family is Italian, and they own and operate an Italian grocery store named A. Litteri, Inc. in North East Washington, D.C. An Italian wine distributor several years ago put together a tour of wineries in the Tuscany region of Italy. We went on the tour and it was amazing. It was everything you ever wanted to know about wine making, Chianti and Sangiovesee grapes. But there was much more.
What amazed me most about the trip was how fanatical the Italians are about food and wine.
Fast food is an oxymoron to an Italian. Not only did we never see a fast food restaurant in Italy, but you can go into even large cities at 6:00pm and not find a single restaurant open. The restaurant employees are all at home having dinner with their families. Only later on in the evening will the restaurants open for dinner.
No one in Italy will probably ever die of over-work. They have a very laid-back work-ethic compared to Americans. But they are fanatical about food and sharing a good meal with friends and family. Over and over we kept hearing a phrase that translates as, "Good friends, good food, good wine."
Fast food was a uniquely American invention, and it fit with the prevalent American notion that food is nothing more than a biological necessity. All that is required is to grab something to eat – and it doesn’t really matter what it is - as quickly and cheaply as you can so you can get to the next item on your daily to-do list. Productivity at the expense of healthy eating.
Much of the rest of the world puts a very high value on good food. The people in countries like Italy, France, and Spain seem to most Americans to be fanatical about food. But in these cultures, there is nothing more important than sharing a good meal with family and friends. Food is worth taking some time and effort. It is civilized. It is a celebration of every-day life. It is the highest of social activities.
Americans are beginning to loose their fast-food mentality, and they are starting to adopt a more continental European view of food-as-celebration. This is a good thing. Obesity and diabetes are rampant in our culture, and pollsters tell us that most of us don’t eat meals together as a family anymore.
Americans are starting to care more about their food. Increasingly, they want to know where it came from, and they want to know about how it was grown. Remember the Domino’s Pizza TV commercial where they take some of their customers out to a tomato farm to meet the grower? They want it to be fresh and nutritious. They are now paying attention to freshness and quality, and locally grown food has those advantages.
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There was an article printed on the back of my column last week in the print edition about a listeria bacteria outbreak in cantaloupes. It reminded me that a few weeks ago, Terry had a customer at the farmers’ market who bought spinach at a local supermarket. Days later, she received an automated phone call that the spinach was being recalled because of possible listeria contamination. Concern over food borne illness from huge mega-farms is another reason for the revolution. I will have more to say on that issue in a later column.
Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org